Think of the word tuxedo and images abound of Cole Porter and Noel Coward, hair parted and slicked,
Then again, a more apt visual could have Marlene Dietrich as she appeared in the Thirties movies classic Morocco, slithering across the screen in a man-tailored tuxedo, stiff-front shirt, bow-tie and studs, sacrificing none of her sultry sex appeal in the process. Indeed, "Black Tie" connotes, even defines, true elegance. Like the little black dress in women's ready-to-wear, the tuxedo is a classic and has been experiencing a renaissance in the last decade.
Today we are once again in the midst of "occasion dressing" not unlike that of the Thirties when propriety and elegance were part of everyday life and putting on one's finery, particularly for evening, was eagerly embraced. The elegant era of Bogart and Bacall, Fred and Ginger, William Powell, Cary Grant and
Like much of what is classic, the tuxedo has suffered its share of fashion aberrations over the years. Originally worn by residents of the tony enclave in upstate
Gathering together for dinner and cigars at Delmonico's in
But it wasn't until the fall of 1886 and the first Autumn Ball in the newly completed
It is therefore to young Griswold Lorillard that we owe credit for putting the word tuxedo in the lexicon of men's fashion. Yet certain theorists contend that the tuxedo's genuine beginnings or ancestral heritage stems more from the French-born "robe de chambre" (chamber robe) worn by wealthy Parisians during the mid 19th century.
For a man to wear a dressing gown when entertaining at home during the Victorian period was considered quite fashionable. However, in the company of women, the coat had to be long enough to cover the buttocks. When the company was exclusively men, no such rules applied and so many fashion-conscious men had abbreviated versions of their "robe de chambre" made by their tailors, which they wore when entertaining male friends.
A silk brocade waistcoat and black four-in-hand silk tie updates any formal Tuxedo
With the return of classic elegance in men's fashion, traditional, somewhat nostalgic formal clothing and accessories have witnessed a rebirth in popularity as well. And while the stylish man's wardrobe would almost certainly include a well-tailored tuxedo, there is nothing wrong with renting if one has to, provided the rental is from a reputable house that deals only in quality clothing. The better rental companies always stock the most classic styles and provide knowledgeable staff for help in putting a look together. Best to avoid any shop that advertises tuxedos in fruit salad shades or promotes any color other than black for evening.
Formal shirts in particular are as elegant as they ever were, with the stiff bat-wing collar style, a fashion legacy of George Bryan "Beau" Brummell, once again being worn, with either a pique or pleated bib front. The most luxurious formal shirts are hand-sewn and made of pure cotton voile or fine broadcloth. Double barrel French cuffs are worth the extra price they may command and look decidedly elegant. Cummerbunds are strictly a matter of choice but even among those who favor them, they are best worn with single-breasted, peaked lapel tuxedo jackets only.
Decidedly elegant is a luxurious woven formal silk waistcoat worn under a tuxedo. The most stylish ones are in subtle tones of gray, silver, or deep burgundy, and feature woven geometric motifs, raised stripes or mini-checks. In turn, cuff links are most elegant when they are conservative and discreet, such as simple ovals or circles of black onyx. Always appropriate to evening attire is a silk or linen pocket square peeking from the breast pocket of a tuxedo or smoking jacket. White is always right, although holiday tones of gold, burgundy or emerald green silk can add a festive touch.
As for formal shoes, patent leather is considered classic, whether as a lace-up or slip-on. But for comfort and elegance, formal slippers in silk faille or velvet with gold embroidered initials at the toe cap are the ticket. To keep things elegant and luxurious, silk or lightweight wool formal hosiery works best in solid black or with the addition of a subtle clock pattern that is truly
For a roguish finish, a silk or silk and cashmere muffler either casually tossed about the neck or neatly tucked in as an ascot looks superb peeking out from an all-black evening coat or trench. And the addition of a boutonniere in one's lapel--red or white carnation only-- would do Fred Astaire proud.